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^lueeris University at Kingston 


Chancellor COLLECTION 

Fund UNivensiTy 


^tontreaPs FIRST 

f^HE little group of less than two hundred 
telephones of 1880 has grown to one hundred 
thousayid. The upstairs room at 180 St. James 
Street^ where our first switchboard was located^ 
has given place to eleven exchange buildings. 


September • Nineteen Twenty-Three 


WHILE experimenting on the harmonic tele- 
graph in 1875, Bell outlined his idea of the 
telephone to his associate, Thomas A. Watson, in 
these words: — 

'Tf I could make a current of electricity vary in 
intensity precisely as the air varies in density dur- 
ing the production of sound, I should be able to 
transmit speech telegraphically." 

So, by using the continuous current and by in- 
tensifying and diminishing that current just as he 
had foretold. Bell was able to transmit speech by 
means of this crude instrument. 

Montr ears FIRST 


N Montreal forty odd years ago, men's minds were turn- 
ing often to a closer linking up of the city with the South 
Shore. A project was launched by the old South Eastern 
Railway for a road across the ice to Longueuil, and in 
January, 1880, rails were actually laid and an engine 
and some cars crossed the river. But a little later, the engine 
broke through and was lost, and so the scheme was abandoned. 

Had the men of that day but known it, an idea had already 
been born in the mind of a much-derided dreamer which was 
to result in the greatest linking-up agent of all time. It was 
to make a neighborhood of a nation, bringing within easy 
speaking distance communities sundered by rivers, lakes, 
plains and mountains, setting the bounds of communication 
wider and wider. 

Bell's Vision of the Future 

Was ever a more remarkable prophecy made than that 
of x^lexander Graham Bell in March, 1878? Addressing a group 
of British capitalists — and this before the telephone had made 
any real progress — he said: — 

"It is conceivable that cables of telephone wires could be laid under- 
ground, or suspended overhead communicating by branch wires with pri- 
vate dwellings, country houses, shops, manufactories, etc., etc., uniting 
them through the main cable with a central office where the wire could be 
connected as desired, establishing direct communication between any two 
places in the city. Such a plan as this will, I firmly believe, be the outcome 

An early type of Switchboard 

Telephones patented by 
Dr. Bell— 1876 

of the introduction of the telephone to the public. 
Not only so, but I believe in the future, wires 
will unite the head offices of the Telephone Com- 
pany in different cities, and a man in one part of 
the country may communicate by word of mouth 
with another in a different place. Believing as I 
do that such a scheme will be the ultimate result 
of the telephone to the public, I will impress upon 
you all the advisability of keeping this end in 
view, that all arrangements of the telephone may 
be eventually realized in this grand system." 


How well the telephone system of 

Montreal today vindicates the judgment 

of the great inventor! Here we have 


Montreal ''Main" thirty-five years ago 

268,000 miles of wire serving the city's 
100,000 telephones. Two hundred and 
twenty-eight thousand miles of this wire 
are laid underground as Bell predicted 
would be possible. Fifty-six thousand 
telephones are in the private dwellings 
that Bell prophesied would be thus served, 
while the remaining 44,000 equip ''the 
shops and manufactories" of Canada's 
metropolis. Moreover, as Bell's vision 
foresaw, telephone wires do unite the 
head offices of the telephone company in 
different cities, and a man in one part of 

Type of Switchboard 

Manager, 1 880-1 897 

The late D. C. DEWAR 
Manager, 1 897-1 906 

the country may in very truth communicate by word of mouth 
with another in a different place. 

Early Telephone Days in Montreal 

The top floor of the present City and District Savings 
Bank at i8o St. James Street was the home of the first Bell 
Telephone exchange in Montreal. Here in 1880, a primitive 
switchboard of what was known as the Gilliland type was 
sufficient to serve the subscribers whose lines had been taken 
over by the newly organized Bell Telephone Company of 
Canada from the Montreal Telegraph Company and the Dom- 
inion Telegraph Co. In 1886, these premises were abandoned 
and a new exchange opened in the British Empire Building at 
the corner of Notre Dame West and St. Francois Xavier streets. 



Manager, 1 906-191 5 Manager since 19 15 

A switchboard with a capacity of some 2,000 lines was installed 

The Uptown district was not slow to see the advantage 
of so useful a service, and in January, 1 888, an exchange known 
as ''West" was opened in a small store in the Queen's Hall 
block, with about 300 lines in service. 

Then in 1890 came a ''South" exchange, on the south side 
of Notre Dame St. West, near Seigneurs, followed by a second 
exchange in the British Empire Building called "Annex," 
which served to relieve the overcrowded Main switchboard 
in the same building. 

The demand from the East end soon led to the opening 
of the first "East" Exchange, in the rear of the store of a well- 
known herbalist, at the south-west corner of St. Christophe 


''Information'' — Main Exchange 

and St. Catherine Streets. This was in 1 888. 

The First Underground 
It was not until 1891 that the first 
underground conduit was laid. It extend- 
ed along St. Catherine Street, from the 
corner of Mountain to St. Christophe. 
This early conduit consisted of wooden 
blocks treated with creosote and with a 
three-inch hole bored through them. They 
were found to be in a perfect state of pres- 

Desk Telephone ervation when replaced many years later 

^^^'^ by the modern type of underground con- 



Trouble From Electric Railway 
Up to 1892 all subscribers' telephones 
were on the single wire system which used 
the earth for the return current to com- 
plete the circuit. When the electric street 
railway began operations, the current 
from its wires escaping through the earth 
made the telephone lines so noisy as to 
make conversation at certain hours almost 
impossible. It therefore became necessary 
immediately to reconstruct the entire 
system, installing the present type of me- 
tallic circuit by which each subscriber's 

Desk Telephone 


telephone utilizes a pair of wires from the central switchboard. 

The First Prefixes 

Prior to August, 1898, no central office prefixes such as 
*'Main/' ''Uptown/' etc., were used by subscribers in calling 
numbers. Up to this time it had been possible to assign to each 
exchange a group of numbers within which all the lines con- 
nected to that exchange would fall. Thus the number called 
by a subscriber would at once indicate to the operator the 
central office to which it was connected. 

The limitations of this method were soon reached as the 
system grew. On August 22nd, 1898, the use of prefixes in 
calling numbers was begun, and the central offices then in 
service were assigned the names ''Main," "East," "Uptown," 
"Westmount" and "South." 


The countless improvements necessary to keep Mont- 
real's telephone system abreast of successive developments of 
the telephone art cannot be detailed here. They were for the 
most part technical, and although involving the expenditure 
of large sums of money, they went on behind the scenes and 
were reflected chiefly in improved and ever-expanding service 
to the community. Old premises were continually being vacat- 
ed for larger quarters, and soon the necessity for housing com- 
plex and costly equipment in substantial fireproof buildings 
became evident. One by one the handsome structures that 
are now recognized landmarks in the city's commercial and 
residential areas came into being. The dates of their completion 
may be of some interest. The present "Main" was first occupied 
in August, 1897; ''East" in March, 1905; "Uptown" in June, 
1 907 ; "Westmount," July, 1 908 ; "St. Louis," August, 1 909 ; "La- 

1 1 

Salle/' February,! 91 2 /^Victoria," July, 1 913 /'Rockland," Feb- 
ruary, 1914; ''Calumet," March, 1920; "Melrose," July, 1917; 
"Plateau," January, 1921. 

Of Montreal's 100,000 telephones, 44,000 are in business, 
and 56,000 in residence premises. 

Over 2,000 operators are required to handle the City's 
telephone traffic. 

More than 950,000 calls are completed in the city daily, 
of which 630,000 are trunked between central offices. 

During the busiest hour of the business day 86,000 calls 
are completed. 

Upwards of 4,400 long-distance calls originate in Montreal 
each day, and there are over 8,100 incoming calls. 

Two hundred and twenty-five long-distance circuits ter- 
minate at our Montreal switchboard. 

Montreal has 268,578 miles of telephone wire, 228,268 
miles of which — 85 per cent 


— are underground. 

The Rise and Fall of the Telephone Tide 

The replacement value 
of telephone plant in Mont- 
real is upwards of twenty- 
two million dollars. 


Bell Telephone engin- 
eers estimate that five years 
hence (1928) Montreal will 
have 175,000 telephones in 


AM — »Ol/PS — P.M.